Branden Powers’ New Bar Brings Tiki to Chinatown

The themed endeavor aims to become an off-Strip drinking destination for tourists and locals alike.

Branden Powers | Photo by Jon Estrada

Branden Powers | Photo by Jon Estrada

When Branden Powers told me in December that he was planning to open a tiki bar, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I’d been to Frankie’s Tiki Room. But until that moment, Frankie’s and Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room were about the extent of my exposure to tiki culture. So when Powers—a former consultant for Hard Rock Hotel, Sony Music, Capitol Records and Matador Records—sent me his The Legend of the Golden Tiki in preparation for my tour of the space, I was a little blown away.

Powers’ fictitious manifesto, which runs about 700 words at present, will serve as the blueprint for the 4,000-square-foot bar, the Golden Tiki. It tells the tale of a pirate named William Tobias Faulkner, who stole an enchanted golden tiki from a volcanic island inhabited by mermaids and Cyclopes, only to be driven mad by it. Along with the tale, Powers sent me a list of the features from the story that he plans to incorporate into four themed areas in the bar: Headhunter Village, Mermaid Cove, Pirates’ Lair and the Golden Tiki itself. Thus forewarned, I headed out one recent morning to tour the space on Spring Mountain Road.

The chosen location, which was previously home to the bar Little Macau, now bears little resemblance to Powers’ tiki tale. But as Powers walked me through it, it was obvious he could see all the details in his mind’s eye.

“This will be all lava rock and little puffs of steam,” he says, pointing to the entrance area. “And there will be an idol here that might be projected—or it’ll just be a voice—that will serve as a greeter.” And a little farther in, “There will be a hostess stand here, and a merchandise area.”

Next, he shows me where he’s planning the waterfall; Headhunter Village, with shrunken heads depicting local celebrities; and the mermaid cove, where ladies can pose for selfies on a giant clamshell. Among the decorative items he’s already secured are a ghost ship and goblet from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. The roof will be a star-filled sky with LED fireworks. And, of course, there will be a talking Golden Tiki.

One thing that hasn’t been decided is where the stage for bands will go. But Powers knows what kind of music he’ll feature: “Lounge and exotica as much as possible thrown in with punk rock, surf guitar, gothic surf, soul, R&B, rare groove, trip-hop and acid jazz. For late night, maybe some tropical house music; maybe for early morning, [something] chill and ambient.”

If the end result is even half as detailed as its creator describes, the Golden Tiki could turn into a serious off-Strip drinking destination for tourists. But Powers is extremely dedicated to locals. He’s planning a second, private entrance with valet parking. And he wants to create VIP pendants for regular customers that entitle them to various specials.

Gaming will be available, but Powers doesn’t want it to be the bar’s main appeal. “It’s not like we’re a PT’s trying to be a tiki bar,” he says. “We’re a tiki bar that just happens to have gaming if you sit down at the bar.”

All the aspects are expected to be in place in time for a mid-July opening. Ultimately, Powers hopes he’ll be successful in adding something new to the local drinking landscape. “It’s good for Vegas to have more alternative things,” he tells me as we complete our tour.

Sounds good to me, as long as he guarantees that my head and mohawk will be the same size coming out as they are going in.


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